If you are heading out of London in 1819, you ought to be aware the best coaching inn from where to begin your journey. First and foremost it is important to remember that London is served by over 120 stagecoach inns, and every one of them offers a selection of destinations. Where stabling is ample, such as the Golden Cross in Charing Cross, the widest selection of options are available. However, most inns concentrate on specific routes to the same part of the country. A good example of this is the Blue Boar Cellar at Aldgate, which heavily relies upon Essex trade. Inns cited near important industry or London markets such as Smithfield will place greater emphasis on waggons or carts with much less traffic by stagecoach. Blossoms Inn (see below) has taken advantage of the recent boom in tourism by providing a frequent and regular service to Brighton. Some inns are owned by the same businessmen. The Swan with 2 necks, the Spread Eagle and the White Horse all belong to William Chaplin. Chaplin is ahead of his time in regard to corporate branding because all coaches have livery relating to the specific inn from where they operate. Thus it is common to see coaches with either a two-necked swan, a white horse or an eagle emblazoned across their rear.
In this blog have I have listed the principal London departure points for major towns throughout Britain in the year 1819, and tried to give some background information on each inn selected.
The Swan with Two Necks, Cheapside
The Swan with Two Necks was in Lad Lane (renamed Gresham Street in 1851). Known to have existed since the 16th Century this large inn was significant from early days of organised coach travel, and was a key departure point for the mail coaches until the 1840s
Depart here for: Andover, Axminster, Basingstoke, Bath, Bristol, Bury St Edmunds, Camelford, Chester, Coventry, Daventry, Dartmouth, Devonport, Exeter, Falmouth, Ipswich, Leicester, Liverpool, Macclesfield, Manchester, Nottingham, Penzance, Plymouth, Preston, Reigate, Salisbury, Southampton, Stroud, Totnes, Towcester, Truro, Winchester, or Wolverhampton
The Golden Cross, Charing Cross
This famous inn was a thriving transport hub back in the days when Charing Cross was a mere village between the cities of London and Westminster. Probably reaching its apogee in 1819, a combination of pressure for urban redevelopment and the onset of railways lead to a sudden death for this inn. By 1827 The Gentleman’s Magazine reported that the Golden Cross and its ‘extensive stables’ had been acquired by commissioners acting on behalf of the architect John Nash for the princely sum of £30,000 – and Trafalgar Square’s development was underway. There is a great literary connection to Charles Dickens as The Golden Cross features in Sketches by Boz, David Copperfield and The Pickwick Papers
Depart here for: Ashby de la Zouch, Ashford (Kent), Birmingham, Burton-on-Trent, Chichester, Dover, Durham, Eastbourne, Harrogate, Hastings, Hull, Leeds, Litchfield, Ludlow, Maidstone, Mitcham, Nantwich, Newmarket, Potteries (Stafford), Stratford upon Avon, Tamworth, Taunton, Thetford, Worcester, Wrotham (Kent), or York
La Belle Sauvage Inn, Ludgate Hill
This coaching inn has been around since Elizabethan times where it also served as a playhouse and venue for sporting events, its rear balconies serving as upper and lower circles for crowds attending. Famous lodgers include Pocahontas (1616), and it is said to be the place where the first rhinoceros brought to England was kept. This is one of several pubs and inns mentioned in Dickens novel The Pickwick Papers. La Belle Sauvage was literally swept away by the railways when it was demolished in 1873 to make way for a viaduct.
Depart here for: Anglesey, Chippenham, Colchester, Darlington, Downham (Norfolk), Ely, Fulham, Holyhead, Kew, (Kings) Lynn, Maidenhead (Berks), Norwich, Shepton Mallet, Sherborne (Dorset), Shrewsbury, St Austell, Swindon, Tiverton, Trowbridge, Walsall, Warminster, Warrington, Warwick, Wimborne, or Windsor
The White Horse, Fetter Lane
The yard of this inn provided stabling for over 70 horses, and there were ample lodgings for both long and short-term visitors to the capital. It was demolished and rebuilt to a smaller scale in 1899, as the stables were no longer needed for the hotel guests, most of whom now travelled by rail.
Depart here for: Aberdeen, Aldborough, Arundel, Barnet,Barton Mills, Bishop Auckland, Blackburn, Bradford, Bury, Canterbury, Cromer, Croydon, Darlington, Dartford, Douglas (Isle of Man), Edinburgh, Gosport, Halifax, Hartlepool, Holmes Chapel, Hounslow, Huddersfield, Inverness, Kidderminster, Kilmarnock, Kirby Lonsdale, Kirkaldy, Knutsford, Lancaster, Leek, Milford Haven, Newark, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Newport Pagnall, Nuneaton, Peterhead, Pontefract, Rugby, Stockton on Tees, Selkirk, Sheerness, Sheffield, Stevenage, Stockport, Stockton upon Tees, Sunderland, Swansea, Ware (Herts), Wetherby, Wisbech, OR Worksop
The Saracen’s Head, Snow Hill
The Saracen’s Head Hotel, Snow Hill (Holborn) is described in Chapter Four of Charles Dickens Nicholas Nickleby
Near to the jail, and by consequence near to Smithfield…and on that particular part of Snow Hill where omnibus horses going eastwards seriously think of falling down on purpose, and where horses in hackney cabriolets going westwards not unfrequently fall by accident, is the coach-yard of the Saracen’s Head inn, its portal guarded by two Saracens’ heads and shoulders…frowning upon you from either side of the gateway, and the inn itself, garnished with another Saracen’s Head, frowns upon you from the top of the yard
Knocked down to make way for the Holborn Viaduct in 1868 this ancient inn was once frequented by Samuel Pepys
Depart here for: Arbroath, Barnsley, Braintree, Burnley, Chelmsford, Cheshunt, Colne, Egham, Falkirk, Fishguard, Forfar,Greenwich, Grimsby, Hertford, Huntingdon, Kendall, Malmsbury, Marlborough, Minehead, Montrose, Newbury, Oldham, Padstow, Paisley, Perth, Poole, Reading, Sidmouth, Stirling, Thirsk, Ulverstone (Lancs), Upminster, Wakefield, Welwyn, Wentworth (Yorks), Weymouth, Whitehaven, OR Wigan
The Bull & Mouth, St Martins Le Grand
This inn was situated near Smithfield Market was originally named ‘Boulogne Mouth’ in reference to a siege laid upon this French port by Henry VIII. It was burned down in the Great Fire of London and rebuilt as a thriving coaching inn until 1831, when it was replaced by The Queen’s Hotel. On his excellent London rambles blog Mark Rowland has written an intriguing post about the mystery of the Bull & Mouth
Depart here for: Bangor, Cardiff, Carlisle, Carnavon, Chesterfield, Dublin, Dudley, Dunstable, Glasgow, Fakenham, Henley, Knaresborough, Leighton Buzzard, Melton Mowbray, Northampton, Pembroke, Ripon, Rotherham, Scarborough, Skipton, St Albans, Stamford, Stourbridge, Stow on the Wold, Stranraer, Sutton Coldfield, Tipton, Wells (Norfolk), Woburn, OR Wrexham
Blossoms Inn, Cheapside
A corruption of the somewhat bawdy ‘Bosoms Inn’ this coaching inn dates back to the 14th century. In 1331 it was the venue for a jousting tournament that lasted three days. Pickfords Travel Company based their London headquarters here in 1720.
Depart here for: Brighton, Folkstone, Ramsgate, OR Sittingbourne,
The Spread Eagle, Gracechurch Street
This pub is recorded as a very important commuter hub for counting-house (banking) employees in the 1760s with a service 4 times daily to Camberwell. By 1819 it was still a very important meeting place and venue for commercial activities. One such businessman who used the Spread Eagle for deliveries was Thomas Twining the tea merchant.
Depart here for: Bromley (Kent), Epsom, Gravesend, Harwich, Lewisham, Lincoln, Lowestoft, Peterborough, Rochester, Sleaford, Stilton, Stoke (Suffolk), Streatham, Tooting, Woodbridge (Suffolk), OR Yarmouth
The Bell and Crown, Holborn
This Holborn pub was largely concerned with routes from London into Hampshire, with Southampton and Winchester fairly important goods destinations.It was a very important masonic meeting place – Well past its best by 1819 – constrained by size and competition from a myriad of inns in and around Holborn
Depart here for: Aylesbury, Banbury, Berkhamstead, Edgware, Edmonton, Hampstead, Harrow on on the Hill, Hemel Hempstead, Leatherhead, Lewes, Rickmansworth, Stokenchurch, Teignmouth (Devon), Tottenham, Walthamstow, Watford, OR Wendover
The Blue Boar Cellar, Aldgate
If Eastenders had a coaching inn, this would be it. The bulk of all coach travel into Essex originated at the Blue Boar Cellar. But in the 1750s it was more renowned as a departure point for young men heading on a Grand Tour of Europe – Stagecoaches ran to the port of Harwich which was the favoured port for those travelling to the Low Countries or Germany. By 1819 and the restoration of peace with France, Dover and Folkestone had gained the ascendancy for cross-channel trips.
Depart here for: Barking, Bishops Stortford, Brentwood, Chigwell, Dagenham, East Ham, Epping, Grays, Harlow. Hornchurch, Ilford, Plaistow, Rayleigh, Romford ,Southend-on-Sea, Stanstead, Stratford (Essex), OR Waltham Abbey
The Bolt in Tun, Fleet Street
The Bolt in Tun is recorded as open as long ago as 1443, and it survived right up until 1853. The coming of the railways put paid to the vast majority of coaching inns by 1850, so the demise of the Bolt in Tun was not surprising. Bolt-in-Tun is Regency period slang for a man who has absconded from lodgings, or escaped from jail. The pub itself had a reputation for riotous celebrations and drunkenness amongst its clientele, so perhaps it was popular with wild youth of the Georgian era. Book your journey from here by all means, but don’t hang around after dark!
Depart here for: Aberystwyth, Battle (Hastings), Cheltenham, Cowes (Isle of Wight), Esher, Eton, Froom, Gloucester, Guildford, Havant, Hereford, Margate, Monmouth, Oxford, Petworth, Portsmouth, Sevenoaks, Shepperton, Tewkesbury, Tunbridge, Twickenham, Walton on Thames, OR Wells (Somerset),
For a very comprehensive guide to London’s lost pubs and inns look no further than Pubs History
In the final part of my blog series on transport from 1819 I will describe the role of the inn porter: what was expected of him, and what recourse disgruntled travellers have when things don’t go according to plan. I will also give you some guidance on transporting goods – what you can take and how much it is likely to cost. Finally we can consider some of the many wharfs and docks serving London and providing an equally important and reliable transportation system